Building such community peace at the grassroots is not easy, and too often overlooked. But in 2017, with so much uncertainty about where governments are going, it is vital. And we need to make sure that the voices of all those who believe in justice and peace, and in caring for our planet, are heard loud and clear.
We need change that builds, rather than destroys. That means controlling arms supplies as the Arms Trade Treaty already requires governments to do. It means offering a refuge to those fleeing violence and persecution, as the Refugee Convention has for decades prescribed. We must also develop a Global Compact on Migration, to protect migrants, so often as vulnerable as refugees, and to manage migration for the benefit of all. If the terrible events of 2016 are not to be repeated, the calls for change to make the world more secure and inclusive must be heard and acted on. Nadi's experience may seem a million miles away from ours but we share the same thread of laws and norms that are supposed to keep us safe. Ultimately we are all in this together.
Aleppo is not an evacuation of communities from danger to a place of refuge. It is the forced displacement of civilians from their homes. The point-blank shooting of civilians dragged from their homes by Regime soldiers and militias as reported by the UN. This is no evacuation, this is ethnic cleansing... The world has watched on as ethnic cleansing took place in Syria. We should be ashamed. The people of Aleppo continue to suffer, but does the world continue to care?
The first evacuees included the 500 children and also 47 orphans who had out out a plea to the world's media last Thursday to be rescued. Their faces, in the main were gaunt and haunted with the 1000 mile stare of somebody who has seen too much and is absolutely done in. The head psychiatrist at UOSSM recently told me that 75% of children in Syria have PTSD and in 50% of those it manifests itself in them being incontinent - what a legacy we have allowed to be built up? The evacuations then stopped until Monday leaving thousands to sleep outside in freezing temperatures and snow. Heartbreakingly, four babies succumbed to the temperatures and died over night waiting to be evacuated.
An education is not a piece of paper that you get as you Instagram a photo of yourself in a cap and gown. Education is a doorway to a better future. It can help you find the voice to fight, open the the eyes of those who have never seen beyond their front door and break the cycle of poverty. Education is knowledge and that can change everything.
We can and we should provide both if the decades-long international system of protection of civilians and regulation of warfare is to have any meaning. It is urgent to ensure the safe passage of civilians in Eastern Aleppo according to International Law; and it is imperative to investigate the responsibility for the crimes that have already been committed.
As I write this, I have just been given the devastating news that Yasser Lakmoush, a SARC volunteer from Idlib, has tragically been killed while undertaking humanitarian work. Poignantly, before his death, he tried to illustrate the emotions of being a frontline first aider in this crisis: "the feeling you have when you save somebody cannot be described, it is a matter of life or death."
Don't feel overwhelmed by the scale of the horror - or turn away because it is too upsetting. Don't not share something on social media, or not join a protest because you feel embarrassed. Don't think that social action is something that belongs only to the 'lefties' and students. Don't think that we can't make a difference because it is "Governments" who should be doing more. Government's answer to us!